Desperate to undermine the Russia probe, Trump is now actively endangering national security and forcing the FBI to take emergency steps to mitigate the fallout from his push to expose a confidential informant.
Trump's war on the U.S. intelligence community reached alarming new heights on Thursday as he joined his Republican accomplices in pushing to expose the identity of a top-secret FBI informant.
The move is so dangerous that the FBI has been forced to take the extraordinary step of putting in place emergency security measures to protect the safety of the informant and his or her associates in case their identity becomes known.
Anticipating that the informant's identity may soon be exposed, the FBI has also had to take steps to protect the integrity of other investigations that the informant has worked on, according to The Washington Post.
The source, a U.S. citizen who has worked with the intelligence community for years and provided valuable information to both the FBI and the CIA, reportedly aided the FBI as it began its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and continued to assist investigators after the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017.
According to The Post, Trump and his allies believe that outing the source could help them undermine the Russia probe and ultimately lay the groundwork for firing Mueller.
In their quest to provide cover for Trump, Republicans led by Rep. Devin Nunes have launched a relentless assault on the FBI and Department of Justice, including threatening to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress and impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if they don't give in to all of their demands to see confidential information about the Mueller investigation.
In the latest demand for sensitive documents, Nunes subpoenaed the DOJ for "all documents referring or related to the individual" identified as the confidential informant.
Turning over such information would risk lives and "contradict years of policy about protecting intelligence sources," senior intelligence officials say.
Despite the dire warnings from the intelligence community, Trump has now publicly joined Republicans in their effort to expose the informant.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump's newest attorney, told The Post on Thursday that Trump believes law enforcement officers have been conspiring against him. Earlier in the day, Trump bizarrely suggested that the lawful use of a confidential informant could be "bigger than Watergate!"
Based on his unfounded paranoia, Trump wants the DOJ to hand over classified intelligence about the origin of the Russia probe — including information on the top-secret source — to Nunes and his fellow Republican accomplices.
This comes just a day after Christopher Wray, Trump's handpicked FBI director, warned that providing information on a source would not only imperil that person and the people around them, but also the American public.
"The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe," Wray said. "Human sources in particular who put themselves at great risk to work with us and with our foreign partners have to be able to trust that we’re going to protect their identities and in many cases their lives and the lives of their families."
Informants provide critical intelligence that is used for a variety of national security purposes, including preventing terrorism, helping our troops avoid danger, and solving crimes ranging from murder to drug trafficking. If informants don't trust that their identities will be kept confidential, they may stop coming forward — and without the information they provide, national security would suffer.
Commenting on Trump's involvement in the campaign to expose a confidential source, former CIA analyst Nada Bakos warned that the fallout could be disastrous for future efforts to recruit sources.
"If human sources are at risk of being exposed at the highest levels of government," Bakos wrote, "it is not hyperbole to say it will have, not just a ripple effect, but tsunami waves throughout our national security apparatus and ability to recruit sources."
In an extraordinary act of betrayal, Trump is disregarding all of these warnings and putting the FBI in the position of having to take emergency steps to protect the safety of a top-secret informant whose life may soon be in danger. And to make matters even worse, he's doing it in an attempt to obstruct an investigation and shield himself from the damning evidence it's producing.
When Richard Nixon was impeached, Congress declared that he had violated his oath of office by engaging in conduct including "interfering or endeavouring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and Congressional Committees."
So perhaps Trump wasn't entirely wrong when he tweeted that this incident could be "bigger than Watergate" — just not in the way he meant it.